A single mom in suburban Baltimore who received a threatening, anonymous letter from a neighbor -- criticizing her yard for becoming "relentlessly gay" -- said she is "awestruck" at the incredible public response to an online fundraiser she set up.
In just five days, the GoFundMe campaign started by Julie Baker of Overlea, Md., has raised more than $43,000. The fundraiser, titled "Relentlessly Gay," features her own rainbow heart tattoo and asks for help, in her words, "to make my Home even More 'relentlessly gay.' If we go high enough, I will see if I can get a Rainbow Roof!"
On Sunday, Baker posted a new message expressing her gratitude to the more than 3,300 strangers who have donated after reading her story, saying in part, " I am so full of gratitude not only for the enormous gift you have bestowed on me, but for all of the kindness you have chosen to take up and hold as banner of hope."
Last week Baker said she was surprised to find a note rolled up and stuck in the handle of her front door of her home.
The note read:
"Dear Resident... Your yard is becoming Relentlessly Gay! Myself and Others in the neighborhood ask that you Tone It Down. This is a Christian area and there are Children. Keep it up and I will be Forced to call the Police on You! Your kind need to have respect for GOD. A Concerned Home Owner."
The note referred to a set of rainbow-colored jar solar lamps Baker had strung up in her yard. The lights spell out "Love" and "Ohana," the Hawaiian word for family. She told Baltimore's City Paper they were not particularly meant to be a statement about LGBT rights -- but she's perfectly content if they leave that impression on people.
"The point of the rainbows isn't about being gay," she explained to the newspaper. "It's because we love rainbows. I have a rainbow tattoo on my arm. We're going to decorate the white siding of our house with them."
Baker, a 47-year-old widow and single mother of four children, says she identifies as bisexual but isn't exactly sure what "relentlessly gay" means. But it quickly became a Facebook meme after she went public at the urging of her 17-year-old daughter.
Her original $5,000 goal was set to collect enough money to paint one side of her house in rainbows, and if she raised more, she promised to consider also painting rainbows on her roof, "because my invisible relentlessly gay rainbow dragon should live up there in style!" She added that she wants to show her children to not "relent to hatred" but to battle it with "whimsy and beauty and laughter and love."
Baker told City Paper last week thather home had been targeted before by hate, including one incident several years ago, when she and her late husband turned down an invitation to attend church services.
Police at the time determined there was no crime. There was an anonymous note that time too.
"It also mentioned devil-worshiping and ended with a reminder that houses burn for no apparent reason. I didn't sleep much after that note."
Her reason for creating the online fundraiser, said Baker, was to respond to the latest note in the best way she knew how:
"Put simply, I am a widow and the mother of four children, my youngest in high school and I WILL NOT Relent to Hatred. Instead, I will battle it with whimsy and beauty and laughter and love, wrapped around my home, yard and family!!!"
You can read, below, the note Julie Baker posted on her fundraising page.
"Hello everyone, I hope life finds you well and full of joy.
I know that it has been a few days since this all started, and I haven't spoken a great deal. I was ill when it all started and am still recovering and all this has been quite a shock. It has left me speechless and awed and honestly, a bit frightened. I feel a bit like a bug under a many magnifying glasses, that are both good and bad.
I wanted to say thank you all though, I am just so tremendously grateful that you chose to give so generously to joy and whimsy. I know there are naysayers as well, but as with the original grumpy pants, I still choose not to give my energy to negativity. I will honor the gifts that so many have given me, all those tokens of laughter great and small and do my very best to honor the delight it was given in.
Many people have asked me when and how I will start, and I say honestly, it will be soon! This has al happened in just a few days and I am flabbergasted, in shock and also a wee bit terrified. I always have had faith in humanity, though news often only shows the horrors of the world, I choose to really believe that people are in the core of their beings, good and benevolent. So much and so many things work to keep us apart form one another, to destroy that unity, so that we feel lost and compelled to fill the gaps with items that supposedly will make us whole, but never actually do.
I have never had the ability to conform to the expectations of the world, for many personal reasons I have chosen to embrace life through giving and loving for the sake of giving and loving. Its all that I know and what keeps my soul together. So when I am told, that the simple joys that hold me together are supposed to be buried away because somehow, someone chooses to be offended by it. It is in my nature to fight back in the only way how, with laughter and irreverence and creative stubbornness. I try my best to get up every morning, knowing that yesterday is done, starting new and choosing not to be cruel, or selfish, or uncaring. Compassion is the point that I set my compass by, because for me, that is the easier way to move through my existence. I would rather be catalyst for good, than bad. I know that sounds cliche, but I just don't know any other way to be.
I am so awed by the unity that has happened because of a really absurd note. How thousands of people have stood up and taken back the stars that glow inside of them and are choosing to push back the darkness with rainbows. A million shards of light, all breathing in possibilities and exhaling brilliance, and I am so full of gratitude not only for the enormous gift you have bestowed on me, but for all of the kindness you have chosen to take up and hold as banner of hope. Much love and thanks to you, with hugs and tearful laughter, and in hopes that I made sense, lol....
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3"